700x23c simply means the dimensions of your bike tire, under what’s known as the ‘French system’.
The first number, 700, refers to the nominal diameter of the bike tire and is measured using millimeters. The second number, 23, is actually the width of the bike tire, again it’s measured in millimeters.
The letter c is the width code of the bicycle tire (in this case, width means what you’d see by looking at the bike from either directly in front or behind). The “c” bit is (these days) fairly obsolete, but was part of the old French classification system that designated widths of bike tires from the narrowest, known as “a”, to the widest, known as “d”. Which meant that a “c” tire was nearly the maximum width for these tires.
How to find bicycle tire size
You can find your bike’s tire size by getting down on your knees and taking a close look at the sidewall of the tires (check the strip of rubber just above the wheel rim surface at the point where the brake pads make contact). Not sure which is the sidewall? Well, if you stand to one side of your bicycle so that the tires look like an ‘O’ shape and you can see the spokes, then the sidewall is the rubber part of the tire that you can now see. It should be smoother and not have any of the knobbles or grips that you get on the tire surface where it touches the surface of the road.
If you inspect the sidewall closely you notice that there are some numbers and probably words set into the rubber. These might include the bike tire brand (such as Continental) and will also include “700x23c”, which is your bike tire size. To summarize, “700” is the diameter of your tire and “23c” is the width of your tire.
What size bicycle tire do I need?
You’ll likely see a whole range of tire sizes available but, unfortunately, tires that are ‘nearly’ close enough to your required tire size probably won’t fit correctly. You’re then likely to get punctures and other issues. You do however have choices to make in terms of (a) which brand to go for and (b) how much ‘tread’ you want on your tires i.e. how knobbly you want them. On bikes for road use, I’m a fan of smoother tires as they’re faster-rolling and tend to transfer less vibration. In slippery conditions though it’s best to swap to grippier tires.
I’ve used a number of tires from Continental recently and super-impressed by the quality of them. Smooth and very fast-rolling and (so far!) I’ve not had one pop. That’s even with having cycled plenty of miles on them. If you’re looking for a recommendation, then I’d suggest these Continental Gatorskin tires. They’re puncture-resistant, light, and super-fast. They’re available in a range of widths, so be sure to pick the 700x23mm non-folding ones.
What bike inner tubes should I buy?
When choosing inner tubes for your bike tires, you must be sure to pick a tube with a diameter that matches the one that’s indicated on your existing tire sidewall (for us this is “700”) and with a width that covers the diameter you need (in our case, that’s “23”).
Inner tube widths will vary according to how much air you put in them. So they’re generally labeled with their diameter and a width range, for example, “700×20-25”. This means that they can be used with tires that are in the width range of 700×20 up to 700×25.
This is a great tube from Continental. It has the typical Presta valve and there are three different widths to choose from: 20-25mm / 25-32mm / 32-42mm.
Make sure you pick the 700 x 20-25 for your tires.
Bear in mind that, if your bike pump has the type of valve attachment used on car tires (which is known as a Schrader valve) you’ll also need to get yourself an adaptor like this. This means that the pump can be used for tubes with these Presta valves. There’s no way around this unfortunately! Presta valves are much thinner than the Schrader valves used on car tires. If you check out the pictures on Amazon you can see how easy a process it is to screw on and use these adaptors.
How do I replace bike tire and inner tube?
If you’re prepared and have the right kit with you, then getting a puncture will be annoying but won’t ruin your bike ride. Make sure that when you head out for a cycle ride that you always take with you a correctly sized spare inner tube (or two), a simple repair kit, two or three plastic tire levers and a CO2 tire inflator or hand pump. It can then be an easy 30-45 minutes process to get you back on the road and away on your travels.
There are five basic steps to fixing a flat tire:
- Remove the bike wheel
- Remove the tube
- Find the cause of the flat
- Repair or replace the tube
- Reinstall the bike wheel
For an easy how-to guide, have a quick watch of this video.
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